For many (perhaps most) of us the concept of the kingdom of God is very unclear. What is the kingdom of God? What is our relationship to it? And what do we know about it? We discussed the first two questions earlier. Today, we look to Jesus to understand more.
Jesus mentions the kingdom a lot, and he uses some very intriguing and insightful parables to describe it. Matthew 13 is a treasure trove of kingdom parables!
Sowing the Good News of the Kingdom
Matthew 13 begins with this parable:
A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up.
Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root.
Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants.
Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.
Later, Jesus explains the parable:
When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path.
The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away.
The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful.
But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.
What do we learn from this parable? Two things stand out to me–readiness and commitment. Some are not ready to receive the good news of the kingdom. Others like what they hear, but they really have no commitment to the kingdom. Still others are attracted to the kingdom but some other commitment prevents them from really committing to it.
I think we have all known such examples.
But then there are those who hear the good news and really grasp it! And they commit! (because the kingdom requires commitment); these are the members of the kingdom. Readiness and commitment are essential in becoming part of the kingdom of God. Are you ready? Are you committed?
The Kingdom and the Weeds
Jesus told another parable:
The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared.
The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’ ‘An enemy did this,’ he replied. The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’
‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’
The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the people of the kingdom. The weeds are the people of the evil one, and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels.
As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. They will throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father.
Whoever has ears, let them hear.
So what insights do we gain from this parable? First let me say that the details of parables are often not important in themselves but only support the main point of the parable. So I would not draw any conclusions about the afterlife from the blazing furnace and gnashing of teeth.
But it does seem that we can expect some to intermingle with the kingdom who are not of the kingdom. Yet it is not for us to determine who are legitimate members of the kingdom, and we should not try to ‘purify’ the kingdom of those who are insincere—or we might rip up some genuine kingdom members in the process.
- It seems that people need to be ready to hear the good news of the kingdom for the message to be effective, but we never know who that might be—so we ‘sow the seed’ of the good news.
- Being part of the kingdom requires commitment, but it is not for us to determine who is part of the kingdom and who is not. We just need to be committed.
- We can expect some to mingle with the kingdom who are really not of the kingdom.
Jesus has more kingdom parables to share. We will look at some of them next time.
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Articles in this series: The Kingdom of God
What Is Heaven and Where Is It?
Heaven, the Kingdom of Heaven, and the Kingdom of God
How Do We Become Part of the Kingdom of God?
2 Parables of the Kingdom from Planting
The Kingdom of God is Like… (7 Short Kingdom Parables)
The Kingdom of God is Like Attending a Banquet